When I finish a working day, I often judge it by my level of procrastination. If I spent any time watching unnecessary videos, or replying to silly emails, I will judge the day as a failure. And I’ll feel guilty about it. I won’t focus on the work I actually did get done. Instead, I will judge myself by the work I think I should have got done, when I was ‘procrastinating’. Even if I’ve ticked of all my tasks on my to-do list, I’ll still feel like I should’ve done more.

Yet recent research has actually shown that procrastination is actually a good thing! My spots of procrastination might be the very thing that helps me tick of my to-do list, and instead they leave me feeling like I should be doing more!

Here are the five surprising ways procrastination can actually improve productivity. So we can all banish the guilt and embrace a healthy dose of procrastination each day.

1) You’ll Make Better Decisions…

It might be obvious but it helps to remember; that the time you spend ‘procrastinating’ is not actually time when your brain is completely switched off from other tasks. Your brain is big enough to think about more than one thing at once, and it will, without you actively realising it. In ‘Wait: The Art and Science of Delay’ John Partnoy argues that when a procrastinator is delaying a decision they are actually still gathering information, and he argues that this in itself this is a strong recipe for success.

2) Your Brain Needs Breaks… So Don’t Think of it as Procrastination!

One of the worst things about ‘procrastination’ are the negative connotations behind the word. We think it’s a waste of time, so we feel guilty while we are doing it, and most of the time it makes us more stressed. But here’s the key thing: it’s impossible to stay completely focussed all day. And by trying to force ourselves to be productivity machines, we are actually making ourselves less productive. Studies have found that in reality, the ideal productivity rate is 17 minutes of rest for every 52 minutes of work!

So schedule yourself in some breaks. Set a timer every hour or so for a break to let your brain know it’s okay to rest! Go for a walk, get outside, and you’ll feel a lot more refreshed and guilt free than if you sneakily procrastinated from your desk.

4) You Get Other Stuff Done…

One of the big bonuses of having a task that you really don’t want to do, is quite simply that it makes you do other stuff instead! So if you have a big task that you don’t want to do, and instead focus on a different task, don’t think of this as procrastination! You’re still working, and even if it’s as simple as tidying your work space. It’s a job that does need to be done, and you shouldn’t feel guilty.

5) Looking at Pictures of Baby Animals is Proven to Help Your Productivity…

In 2012, Hiroshima University found that looking at cute baby animals actually boosted productivity. Participants in the study performed 44% better in concentration tasks, than before they looked at them! So, if you’ve got a particularly hard job coming up, then checking out some cute cat pictures just before, might be exactly what your brain needs.

So there you have it! Our five surprising ways procrastination can actually improve your productivity.

Want to take it one step further? Check out our list of free tools to help you become more productive here.

Published on 25 January 2016